Are you ready for it? The ASP World Title Race rolls into Tahiti next Monday to determine who will be staying in the big leagues and who will be demoted only to try their hand at climbing back on tour next year—as if one of the world's most dangerous surf contests needed any more drama.
This year's Billabong Pro Teahupoo comes a few months later due to a schedule change in hopes of reviving the heaving contest lefts that have been absent the last few years. With that schedule change comes the looming axe (dissected here) set to chop the tour down to 32 worthy surfers for the rest of the year. Big names, rookies, and struggling tour veterans all need results—so it's an understatement to say that guys will be hucking themselves over ledges in the pursuit of proving they belong. I'm guessing that surfers leaving chunks on the reef will be at an all-time high this year.
After three rights (and one marginal beachie) so far, the goofyfoots are ready to unleash on the first left of the year. Bobby Martinez won the event last year (albeit in unstellar Teahupoo conditions) and is looking to add a third Teahupoo crown to his mantle.
But you also can't count out the top three in the World Rankings. Jordy's pulled a 17th in 2008 and a 9th last year, which means he's looking to up the ante and show everyone he deserves to be number 1. Taj was in the final last year against Bobby and is fully capable of doing that again—plus if Taj is to break the bridesmaid curse this year with a World Title he'll have to put up a single digit result to keep his confidence up. And then there's Kelly Slater. The guy has won this event with a broken foot, nothing more to say.
Then of course there is always the threat of a local wildcard (like Manoa Drollet) making veterans look silly. And you better believe it'd mean that much more to a local guy if they were to knock someone off tour at their homebreak.
Paradise awaits for the top 45 in what will be the historic culmination of that number. Once the winner stands on the podium sometime between August 23rd and and September 3rd, 32 men (plus four wildcards) will be the standard on the world's biggest stage from here on out (check out the 36-man format here). And to be one of the 32 everyone's going to have to show the world they really deserve it, because Tahiti ain't no joke. Which means get ready for what could possibly be the most exciting event on tour this year.—Ryan Brower
You can follow the Billabong Pro Teahupoo LIVE here as well as full wrap-ups on transworldsurf.com. Here's our FASL picks for the Billabong Pro Teahupoo. Who's on your team? Are our picks whack? Let us know in the comments below. And if you haven't signed up for an FASL team yet, what the heck are you waiting for?
Chris Cote, Editor In Chief
Winner: Michel Bourez, we sat at a bar in Huntington talking about Tahiti from ten to about 1:30 a.m., we pretty much solved the world's problems, and also decided that Bourez would no doubt be winning this event.
Best Rookie: The Gudang Bros are not scared, they will toss themselves over the ledge and smile with their big white perfect teeth—should be interesting to see what Jadson does.
Shocker: Justin Cote will not be drinking Hinano's in the channel as he is getting married the week after the event. Beer sales in Tahiti will be strangely low this year without Justin there helping drain the refrigerators and coolers around town.
Trials Winner: Fuller for sure. Does Biff have a spot in the trials? If so, Biff will go.
Casey Koteen, Managing Editor
Winner: Slater. He looked sharp in Huntington, and Chopes is one of the waves on tour that really gets him amped still, which is big factor in his energy level and how he does.
Best Rookie: Even though Brett Simpson has never surfed Teahupoo before, I'm going to go out on a limb and say he'll do well. He's got lots of momentum from the US Open win, and seems to perform when his back is up against the wall, which it currently is as he's in a six way tie for 24th on the rankings.
Shocker: Jadson Andre will channel Bruno Santos and make it farther than expected. Seriously though, the kid has grit. He grew up in the favelas and has faced adversity most of his life—he's not scared of a challenge.
Aaron Checkwood, Photo Editor
Winner: Well, is it gonna be big or small? Since we don't know, I'm gonna go with Owen Wright. In my opinion, Owen's gonna be a force in Tahiti for a long time and this will be his big splash. Just a hunch.
Best Rookie: Owen…
Shocker: I think the string of trialist surprises all the way to the finals won't happen this year.
Trials Winner: Is Hira Terinatoofa in the trials? If so, he's my pick.
Justin Cote, Online Editor
Winner: I have a feeling the South Pacific is going to come out of it's slumber and throw some heat towards Chopes—mainly because I won't be there or the first time in ten years. That said, there are only a few who can handle it when it gets eight foot and over. With visions of Mick Lowe bailing his board on a rogue ten-footer I'm picking Kelly Slater to win.
Best Rookie: Owen Wright grew up surfing left hand barrels and will shine no matter how big it gets at Chopes. I also can't wait to see Jadson Andre try to do airs on the West Bowl.
Shocker: Me not going to Tahiti for the first time in years is f—king shocking. Who's gonna slam a bunch of Hinano's and kayak into a set wave during the break between the semis and final?
Trials Winner: Danny Fuller said he had a vision of me interviewing him on the point after he won the Von Zipper Trials so obviously he'll win.
Carl Steindler, Photo Associate
Winner: A.I. One of the best backside tube riders in the business, and if Chopes turns on he will be unstoppable. Hopefully the cameraman doesn't get in his way again…
Best Rookie: With nothing really to lose and the re-seed looming on the horizon watch out for Nate Yeomans go for broke attitude to knock out some heavy hitters.
Shocker: One of the trialists will win the event and throw the re-rank inside out.
Trials Winner: Hank Gaskell. Nothing to lose and everything to prove. Definitely deserves to be on this big stage and is no stranger to surfing heaving lefts.
Ryan Brower, Editorial Assistant
Winner: If Simpo can repeat at the US Open then Bobby Martinez can repeat at Teahupoo.
Best Rookie: I'm going to say Tanner Gudauskas because I want to see him surf the second half of the year.
Shocker: After watching Andy's trademark backside barrel skills in High Five I gotta say he's going to get his best result this year if Chopes is doing it's thing.
Trials Winner: John Florence is going to send some big names back to the minor leagues.